Moroccan Red Crescent builds on disaster management experience

تم النشر: 16 أغسطس 2004 0:00 CET

Saleh Dabbakeh, in Al Haouz, Morocco

Whistles ripped through the air calling everyone to assemble their belongings and get ready to leave the camp, the first indication of a state of emergency.
Twice before, sudden “shergi” sand storms, followed by heavy rains, had hit the Moroccan Red Crescent training camp in Al Haouz. Temperatures rose above 40 degrees Celsius.

Nothing like that was planned in the training scenario which had been meticulously prepared for participants to this recent disaster preparedness exercise in Al Haouz province.

But these unplanned events fitted perfectly into the agenda to test the mettle of participants. This was the first training camp covering all areas of disaster preparedness and response organized by the Moroccan Red Crescent (MRC) - with support from the International Federation’s delegations in Tunis and Amman, after the Al-Hoceima earthquake which hit the country in February 2004 and left 640 people dead, 547 injured and damaged hundreds of houses.

Previous training of MRC staff and volunteers, in particular the 2003 camp training in Agadir, proved to be so useful during the disaster that it was decided to train 300 more volunteers and staff in disaster response and provide further specialised training to those who went through the response experience in Al-Hoceima.

The camp was also made possible by the support of the French Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose participants took part in all the activities.

Some 80 members of the national Moroccan Red Crescent disaster intervention team and 294 other volunteers, as well as other participants from the Red Crescent societies of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania and Qatar were transported from Marrakech in a long convoy of trucks, buses and ambulances to the camp ground - a carefully chosen plot of land near Lalla Takarkoust dam in Al Haouz province - in the early afternoon.

Although the training sessions were planned to start the next day, the setting-up of the camp was constantly hampered by the harsh weather conditions. Finally, the camp was able to get into full gear. Participants had been divided into groups of 16 to cover a host of topics, such as camp management, health in emergencies - including psychological support programmes, water and sanitation, search and rescue, nutrition, emergency shelter, assessment procedures, warehousing/logistics, relief distributions, information and media, tracing, conflict preparedness and first aid.

A group of 34 participants from the Moroccan Ministry of Health, the Gendarmerie Royale, the Forces Armées Royales and mine clearance specialists, was integrated in the camp’s activities and training.

The training camp was a great success, continuing its work in spite of Mother Nature’s quirks, as must happen on the job, in real field situations. People were able to turn natural difficulties into an advantage, by training participants in difficult situations, thus perfecting their disaster management skills.